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Skagos - Ást CD (album) cover



Experimental/Post Metal

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siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
3 stars The atmospheric black metal SKAGOS which formed in 2007 in Courtnenay, British Columbia on Canada's Vancouver Island is actually the side project of Iskra bassist Ray Hawes which is another black metal band from neighboring Victoria. This band project has released a few splits but so far only two albums: this debut ÁST which was released in 2009 and a sophomore release "Anarchic" which came out in 2013. This band has had up to four members but on this debut it's only Hawes on bass along with Isaac Symonds on vocals, guitars and drums. A guest appearance of Shandra Mason providing violin occurs on "With a Warm Recollection."

The early 2000s found a whole slew of black metal bands turning more atmospheric and progressive with lengthy sprawling tracks that meander and mostly clocking in with ten minute plus tracks. Weakling certainly upped the ante for lengthier labyrinthine black metal stampedes that indulged in lo-fi tremolo infused sonic terror-tests but many newer bands have added dark ambient atmospheres and even elements of progressive electronic to add more contrast to the frigid orotund nature of black metal bombast. SKAGOS resides in the camp that is closest to bands like Wolves In The Throne Room, Leech and even Agalloch however this band does have a distinct sound of its own despite finding many commonalities.

Like the aforementioned bands, SKAGOS starts tracks off with post-rock styled dreaminess with arpeggiated clean guitars that slowly build up intensity until the black metal kicks in with faster tempos, more aggressive traditional black metal guitar, bass and drum intensity as well as the angry screams that emerge from below the cacophonous din. ÁST unleashes six furious compositions that race past the 55 minute mark and in their wake leave the excesses of lo-fi black metal rampage along with lengthy droning sessions and atmospheric post-rock detachment. The musicianship is above average with nicely delivered tremolo guitar picking and blastbeat fueled drum workouts that add a bit of technicality. The music can change from black metal fury to placid mellowness in a second.

SKAGOS is one of those bands that has done its homework and excels is checking off all the boxes in order to make the perfect black metal album but where ÁST ultimately fails in the songwriting department as nothing on this album really stands out from the legion of similar sounding bands that preceded or came after. Add to that the lo-fi recording approach which works quite well with the second wave rawness of orthodox black metal doesn't quite fit in with the more atmospheric varieties which rely on a cleaner production value to allow all those intricate synthesized sounds to swirl around like a pit of slithering vipers and even the newer remastered versions do not correct this. Overall this is a decent slice of atmospheric black metal but it just doesn't elevate the listening experience to a high enough level to keep me thoroughly engaged throughout its rather monotonous callithump through the Western Canadian woods.

3.5 rounded down

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Posted Thursday, April 30, 2020 | Review Permalink

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